Worth 1000 Words #13: Ol’ Reliable

On the first day of college, I was nervously approaching my first ever class – Health and Wellness – wondering who I would sit with, if I’d make any friends, and why on earth said class needed to be so freakin’ far away from the parking lot, when my backpack strap broke.

Now, superstitious folk might have perceived this occurrence as a bad sign. Unfortunately, I am one of those people.

I immediately assumed that one single stroke of bad luck was going to define my future academic career, and that my pending failures were all due to an unfortunate incident of faulty stitching. I wished I had bought one of those snazzy, colorful L.L. Bean backpacks embroidered with my initials instead of a dowdy brown messenger bag designed to carry my laptop, which I literally brought to class maybe twice in my entire three years of degree-hunting.

So I hobbled to Health class, retained no information while there, then hobbled back to my car with my broken bag and similarly broken spirits. And that night, I went to Staples and shelled out $72 for a backpack that came to be known as Ol’ Reliable.

Ol’ Reliable is a High Sierra brand bag, black with silver/white accents, and contains five pockets of increasing size and a laptop sleeve, so it was quite a lot of bang for my buck. Now, I have owned many a backpack in my time, including one of those wheelie bags that were popular when I was in elementary school, a Big Dogs bag bought at an outlet store in the Poconos, and a really pretty white and purple plaid bag that also broke beneath the burden of weighty books. But I don’t think any backpack past or future can ever eclipse the enduring legacy of Ol’ Reliable, who has been my stalwart traveling companion for the last eight years. Who knew one backpack could carry so many books (I was an English Lit major, remember?), as well as all of my hopes and dreams?

20180926_110729.jpgHe’s suffered through some wear and tear over the years – one shoulder strap is ripped slightly, but it remains resilient and shows no sign of tearing completely. A pen exploded in one of the pockets during an intense rainstorm, so the interior is stained a splotchy black. And, as mentioned earlier, Ol’ Reliable has been through it. My last semester of college alone I had 25 textbooks, including two massive, dreaded literature anthologies. It’s a miracle that both Ol’ Reliable and my spine survived.

Ol’ Reliable not only assisted me on the road to an English degree, he has accompanied me on the literal road on many actual travels. He was with me when I studied abroad in England, which was my first time ever out of the country. When I hiked the steep stairs at St. Paul’s cathedral and then took in the gorgeous view at the top, he was there. As I strolled through Westminster Abbey, looking upon the memorials of poets and writers and kings and queens of yore, he was there. When my crew and I took a whirlwind one day trip to Paris, visiting the Louvre, viewing the Eiffel Tower, and walking through the beautiful and haunting Notre Dame, he was there. Whilst I toured the legendary halls of castles and prestigious universities, he was there. He was strapped firmly to my back when I stood upon the tomb of King Henry VIII in Windsor, and sat quietly at my feet during every exam and quiz. And when I returned to England three years later, he was with me yet again, as solid and hardy as ever. I took him with me to see Stonehenge. He came along when we glimpsed the white cliffs at Dover, rising from the ocean like pale stone beacons. He has visited the Shakespeare House, the royal crescent in Bath, and has graced the floor in many a pub and tavern while I sipped a pint of Strongbow and nibbled on a burger.

Ol’ Reliable was there on my recent trip to Vegas, able to carry everything from my laptop, to my Nintendo DS, to my Nook, and two spare outfits in his sturdy pockets, yet was still able to fit beneath the seat of the person in front of me on the airplane, so I didn’t have to cram him in the overhead bin. He was with me every time I traveled between New England and PA on school breaks and the like, able to fit enough of my belongings in his pockets that I rarely needed to check a bag. He’s been on planes, cars, trains, and ferries. Whenever I have a trip coming up, I feel somewhat less nervous just knowing that Ol’ Reliable will be accompanying me. Because he is exactly that – reliable. With him on my back, I don’t need to worry.

Since I currently work in a retail establishment, I have occasionally had to recommend items to shoppers. Recently, I was assisting a couple with the purchase of a backpack for their grandson from our online store. And wouldn’t you know, a slightly updated version of Ol’ Reliable was available. I sang his praises to them, recounting my eight years of reliable backpack ownership to help them make their decision. And – I like to think due to my persuasion – they made the right choice, and I hope their grandson has an Ol’ Reliable of his own.

Ol’ Reliable isn’t winning any beauty pageants – he’s worn, almost a decade old, and not as glitzy or as glamorous as some of the other backpacks out there. But he gets the job done, and he gets it done well, and without complaint. Any trip I go on, he is automatically the first thing I think of to come along. He has never failed me, and I intend to keep him as my frequent travel-companion until he or I cannot travel any longer, or until that tear in his shoulder strap finally gives.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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Autumn

All seasons have their own unique appeal and their own exclusive perks. My favorite season used to be winter…. until I learned how to drive. After several horrifying and near life-ending experiences navigating snowstorms in my old Subaru and my current Nissan, I no longer hold such favorable opinions of winter. Winter is also mega-depressing, especially in January and February. Spring should begin immediately after New Years, if you ask me… but anyway…

Now, in my adult years, my favorite season is autumn – a sentiment shared by many. This is not because I like pumpkin spice lattes, though. I actually detest all pumpkin-flavored treats, so you won’t find me clambering to get to Starbucks before a massive line forms, or bringing pumpkin cookies into work to share with coworkers. I love when the weather starts to cool, from abysmal heat and soup-like humidity to sweater weather. Nothing beats a nice, cozy sweater – except maybe a nice, cozy flannel. I like (a select few) horror movies. I love curling up on the couch with a good book as an autumn rain taps on the windowpane. I just feel happier when the leaves are changing, the skies are gray, and I can wear long-sleeves and boots and warm, fuzzy socks, and sip a salted caramel mocha.

The first “official” day of autumn was this past Saturday. Usually, the weather does not adhere to these markers and remains sticky and gross for a few more weeks, but in this instance, it actually listened – at least for now. I was at a family/friend gathering, and the weather was fairly autumnal – the air was crisp and cool, the skies were gray, and folks weren’t afraid to go and stand outside and chat and enjoy the outdoors. Beforehand, I got to browse a bit at Barnes & Noble and take advantage of their limited-time 20% off member discount. As far as first days of autumn go, it was pretty darn great.

And today (as I’m writing this it’s Sunday) the weather is much the same, though it’s also rainy. I’m going to an early-afternoon movie soon, I’ve already indulged in two cups of coffee with Cinnabon creamer, and I might even get to wear a sweater! And, later, I’m going to spin out some writing and be productive! This never happens so early in the season! It’s autumnal bliss, I tell you!

The major thing keeping me from looking into relocating into a state further south is the possibility of losing discernible seasons. I can’t lose autumn – I love it far too much.

So, I wonder  – what is your favorite season, and why is it so?

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

DNF

As an avid reader, I try my hardest to adhere to the policy that if I start a book, I must finish it. I am far more strict when it comes to films – especially if I am seeing them in theaters – but still have similar standards for books. I don’t like leaving unfinished business when it comes to literary or cinematic endeavors, and I loathe having to brand a book with the much-hated “Did Not Finish” or “DNF” label.

If a book is “meh” to me after the first few chapters, I am often capable of powering through. Some books take a bit to really kick it into gear, and it’s often worth it to persevere. But, on the flip side, if a book fails to really sink its claws into a reader as the pages pass, they can fall into the “DNF” category.

I recently abandoned a book, and though I felt awful doing so, it was the right decision. I know it’s a normal thing to do – no book is universally loved, and I’m sure my own book has been branded as the dreaded “DNF” for some readers. I gave the book a fair chance to win me over – I read a little over fifty pages during an elliptical session at the gym – but ultimately decided to shelve it. It’s the first book I have abandoned this year. The content of the book and the nature of some of the plot elements were not something I could endure, so I gave up and moved to the next book on my “to read” list, which I am enjoying much more.

However, I think it’s important to distinguish that “DNF” does not necessarily mean that a book is bad. The book I just gave up on wasn’t bad – in fact, the quality of the writing stood out to me as a major plus. It just wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t give it up because it was an atrocious abomination, or a jumbled mess – I just realized that I didn’t really fit into the target audience, and that’s okay. I gave it a shot, and it wasn’t a good fit, so I didn’t rate it and didn’t review it because that wouldn’t be fair. If someone were to ask me my opinion of the book, I wouldn’t lambaste it – but I would be honest about my reasons for giving it the “DNF” stamp, and would offer my reasoning in case they would also prefer to avoid books with such content.

I’m curious to know, as fellow readers, what are your potential “DNF” red flags? What makes you want to give up a book? Too much flowery prose? Explicit or undesirable content? Frequent comma abuse? And if you “DNF” a book, are you quick to warn your fellow readers, or does it depend on the specific book?

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

Let us go then, you and I…

Though my favorite poet is Walt Whitman, and I own a well-loved edition of Leaves of Grass, he did not pen my favorite poem. That distinction belongs to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” written by T.S. Eliot and published in 1915. I’m also a big fan of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, but that’s neither here nor there…

At it’s core, I interpreted the poem as being about an individual who wants so many things in life, but laments missed opportunities and fears speaking his mind and voicing his desires. Anxiety and fear and a bombardment of “what ifs” assail him, and prevent him from pursuing his dreams. But there are a variety of ways to read the poem, and many allusions and themes that can be discerned from it. Prufrock has a distinct feel and voice, and because it impacted me so much, I made a rudimentary “motion comic” for an English final in 2012.

I don’t see much use in keeping this stored on my computer collecting dust, so here’s the YouTube link! Yes… I am aware that I cannot draw proportionate hands. I couldn’t then, and I still can’t.

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon / Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Literary Love Quotes

In honor of my beloved older sister getting married TOMORROW, I thought I’d whip up a post on some of my favorite, and most poignant literary love quotes!

jane-eyre-2011-x-400-x-4“The world may laugh—may call me absurd, selfish—but it does not signify. My very soul demands you.” – Edward Rochester to Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams…” – Lyra to Will, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Westley-and-Buttercup-the-princess-bride-3984050-465-300“My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.” – Westley to Buttercup, The Princess Bride by William Goldman

“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.” – Loras to Tyrion about Renly, A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

“You’re not getting away from me. Never again.” – Percy to Annabeth, The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

“You love me, real or not real?”
I tell him, “Real.” – Peeta and Katniss, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

“I, Geric-Sinath of Gerhard, declare that you’re beautiful and you’re perfect and I’ll slay any man who tries to take you from my side. Goose girl, may I kiss you?” – Geric to Ani, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

Reading Out Loud

Reading is a different experience when it is done on one’s own as opposed to a book being read aloud. The very words “reading aloud” can evoke horrible memories of “popcorn” reading in class and being afraid of stumbling over or mispronouncing a word, but being read to is a different story altogether.

Some of my fondest memories from childhood are my mom reading me and my sister The Chronicles of Narnia. I fell in love with Mr. Tumnus, the Pevensie children, Aslan, Prince Caspian, Reepicheep, and so many other characters and places thanks to her introducing us to those wonderful adventures. A few years later, when I was old enough, I revisited Narnia on my own, and it was an equally enchanting experience.

Hearing stories aloud can have pitfalls, too. In third grade, my teacher read us Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Much like Viktor Krum, she wasn’t sure how to pronounce Hermione’s name, and went for “Hermy-own” instead. I thought that was how her name was pronounced until the following year, when the movie was released. My fourth grade class somehow finagled a field trip to see the film, and when they said “Hermione” onscreen for the first time, my brain went, “Ohhhhhhhhh. That’s how you say it.” I had already read the second book by then, so had gone through two books with the wrong pronunciation, and it still took me a bit to shake it when Azkaban came out.

My love for sci-fi also began with reading out loud, as my (either 3rd or 4th grade teacher… I can’t remember) read A Wrinkle in Time to my class. It’s not a book I would have ever picked for myself. Hearing the descriptions out loud instead of in my head made it so much easier to imagine the characters and the events, and it made me interested to seek out the remaining books in the series, though it was admittedly much later. I don’t even know if they’d read a book like this in classes these days, but I hope they still do.

Where_the_red_fern_grows_1996

I think the most memorable “read aloud” experiences for me is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, which we read during class in fifth grade. The simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking 1961 tale of a boy and his two hunting dogs was a unique experience because my class went through the joys and the sorrows as a collective, instead of on our own. At the most pivotal parts of the story, the class was totally rapt, listening in sheer silence as our teacher described the adventures and the close bond between Old Dan, Little Ann, and their human, Billy – and the devastation that comes with heavy, wrenching loss. I’ll never forget this story, and I know it hit me harder because it was read to me, and to my peers, instead of me reading it on my own. I probably would have skimmed some parts if I’d been reading it solo, but I’m very glad that was not the case. You can’t ignore the “sad” in books forever, and I’m thankful that I got to hear this book read aloud so I could process the emotions in a meaningful, and helpful way.

Do any fellow readers and writers have memorable “reading out loud” experiences? I’d love to know!

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon / Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Books I “Hate”

I mean… “hate” is a strong word, and it implies a whole slew of negative things, which is not my intention with this post. All of the books mentioned here are great books, most with legendary authors who have more talent in their pinkie fingers than I have in my entire body. I just didn’t enjoy reading these particular books. But “Books I Didn’t Really Like But Lots of Other People Did and for Good Reason Because They Have Significant and Enduring Literary Merit” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, now, does it?

Also, for perspective, these are books I was assigned to read for various classes, which might have affected/skewed my overall opinion. Maybe I’ll give them another chance, someday. Probably not, but you never know.

1.) The Old Man and the SeaErnest Hemingway 
You know that scene in Silver Linings Playbook where Bradley Cooper is reading A Farewell to Arms and when he gets to the end he says “WHAT THE F*CK?” and chucks the book out the window? That’s how I feel about this book. This 1952 novel about an old Cuban fisherman battling with a massive marlin won a Pulitzer Prize, so it’s obviously an excellent book. But Santiago’s struggle and the whole Jesus parallel did not resonate with me at all when I read it in 9th grade English class. For the record, I enjoyed A Farewell to Arms, and admire all other Hemingway works that I have read.

2.) The Scarlet LetterNathaniel Hawthorne
Though I appreciate the messages this 1850 novel teaches about unfair judgment, sin/guilt, and the complexity of human morality and relationships, reading it felt like slogging through a dense swamp barefoot and without any supplies. It was just so tedious. The story of a woman branded with a scarlet letter “A” after committing adultery while the father of her illegitimate child grapples with his own sense of consuming guilt explores various themes and offers unique perspectives, but my god… I fell asleep reading it more than once because it was such a chore to get through. Each page felt like 1000. And I read it in 11th grade, when I wasn’t tired all the time, like I am now.

3.) Great Expectations Charles Dickens
Give me A Tale of Two Cities or A Christmas Carol any day, but keep this 1861 novel about the life of an orphan named Pip away from me. Granted, I read this book in eighth grade of my own accord for an assignment, which was a mistake. This book, like The Scarlet Letter, felt like it was 10,000 pages long. At times, it almost felt like a punishment. I appreciated the imagery and the themes, and it has a score of memorable characters – like the bitter Miss Havisham. But I was not a fan of the style – though, since I read it so long ago, this might be the one that I give another chance someday. Not any day soon, but someday. Maybe.

4.) Anthem Ayn Rand
I’ll be honest… I don’t remember a lot of this book, which I read in 10th grade. But I distinctly remember not liking it while I was reading it. I’m a big fan of dystopian books – Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 are two of my favorites, for example – but this one failed to resonate with me. However, I did appreciate the messages about individuality and freedom of thought.

5.) The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. Salinger
I think, for me, this book suffered from overhype, much like The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I kept hearing, before this book was assigned to me in 11th grade, that I was going to LOVE this book, so by the time it actually came to it… I felt mostly “meh” about it. I mean, this book will forever be my #1 reference point for the unreliable narrator, and it’s impossible to deny the influence this book and Holden Caulfield had on literature and popular culture, and I hope a film version never, ever gets made. But I didn’t enjoy reading it all that much.